The Long Road (Part 1)

It was very late, I could see it in the dashboard clock as the numbers twisted into 1:01 am. The radio news and traffic announcement cut into my Judas Priest CD. A male disembodied voice muttered, almost incoherently, the already known news reports. I didn’t listen, but instead enjoyed the darkness licking around me.

Road signs flashed by in my headlights and one of them declared the next services were five miles away. The wanting to stop tugged at me. I checked my mirrors, indicted to the car coming up behind me and pulled into the left lane.

Lampposts lit the way off the motorway as if they marked a heavenly path. I directed the car towards them, getting into lane and beginning to drop my speed. The car that had been behind me sped off, a lone traveller in a star speckled void. I slowed down for the large bend and entered a football field sized carpark.

I parked as close to the double glass front doors as possible, three rows away in-between a green Land Rover and red Ford Escort. I cut the engine and let silence fill the car like a deadly gas. Ahead of me I could see two people smoking beside the doors in the picnic table area. There was a large motorbike before them, but I couldn’t see the make.

Taking the keys from the ignition, I opened my door and got out. Stretching, I closed the door and locked the car. Orange lights flashed against me then I walked away. I took the shortest route to the doors, stealing a few glances at the two people, but they seemed disinterested in everything going on around them.

Warm recycled air hit me as I opened the door. I wiped my soft souled shoes on the welcome mat and headed straight for the gents. I passed three shuttered shops on my left and a large open canteen like area on my right. The toilets were placed at the back, inconvenient for the desperate travellers, but secretly planned out by the architect.

I opened the door and stepped inside. A dripping tap tocked like a clock and stale urine inflamed the lemon scented space. I paused and checked I was alone, before going up to the last urinal. I unzipped my black trousers and eased my manhood out. With a quick glance at the door, I wanted this to be a private moment, I relieved myself. After, I washed my hands twice and used some paper towels.

Walking out, I went over to the canteen area. Behind the counter at the end was a sleepy teenage girl, leaning against a cream wall and looking more like a mirror reflection. Before her were rows of empty blue and white plastic table and chairs. Four of the tables had a single occupants sat at them and the men seemed so far separated they were in parallel universes.

I picked up a brown school like tray from the stack and walked down the line. There was a select of four sandwiches in one section and a bowl of fruit next door. I choose mild cheese on white bread and a browning banana. Sliding the tray along the metal track, I came to a stop before her.

‘Can I have a coffee please? Milk and sugar,’ I asked.

The girl stared at me with distant eyes as if I was a figure in a dream.

I tapped the tray and fixed a smile on my face.

‘A coffee?’ she repeated and turned to the machine behind her as if she had never seen it before.

Nodding, I put my hand in my pocket and pulled at my wallet. Acting as if I was searching for money, I watched the girl make me a coffee. She reminded me of an automaton, just doing as she had been programmed and not caring at all. She plonked a white mug down on the tray and tapped away on the till.

‘Four-eighty, please,’ she stated and held out her hand.

I give her a five pound note and waited until she had dropped twenty pence in my hand. Turning away, I walked to the table closest to the doors and facing them, sat down. I peeled the wrap off the sandwich and selected a half. Raising the food to my mouth, a heard the door open and looked up. A young man with a brown leather jacket, dark jeans, black boots and floppy dark hair walked though and pushed the door back into place. He had a large rucksack strapped to his back and seemed to be more of a walker than a motorist. With a swift glance and grin at me, he walked towards the toilets.

I took a bite my sandwich and chewed on blandness and crustiness. Looking out of the window, but not watching anything, I let my mind churn over. So far, the night had not offered me what I was seeking. Maybe I would find it before dawn or maybe Mistress Moon would be unkind to me.

Sipping the coffee helped to wash some of the dry taste away, but left a bitterness on my gums. I finished the half and went for the other. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the young man repeating my trial at the canteen. It seemed he did no better than me with the automaton girl.

I watched him still as he carefully walked around the tables and choice to sit at one close to me. I ate my sandwich and sipped my coffee with my eyes wondering over to him every now and again. Scenarios began creating themselves in my mind. Somehow, I could get his attention and maybe offer him something. It didn’t matter if he didn’t swing that way, everyone still awake after midnight is lonely. These night-time searchers always hungry for something alive, something just out of reach.

He sped through his meal and was on his feet, before I had fixed a plan. I couldn’t help but watch with longing as he took his tray to a bin and abandoned it. He slipped through a gap in the metal barrier that separated the area and opened the door. He let himself out and a blast of air in, before disappearing.

A missed opportunity.

I finished up, the banana going down easier than the sandwich and the coffee grains cooling in my mouth. Abandoning my table, I left and stepped outside. Cold, damp air stroked me as if I was a lover returning to bed. I took a deep breath and let it refresh me. I noticed that the two men and motorbike were now gone and in their place was the young man. And he was waving me over.

‘You got a light?’ he called, a cig dangled between his lips.

‘No,’ I half-shouted back, ‘I might have some matches in my car though.’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ he responded and turned away.

I wondered closer as if I had meant to walk that way anyway, ‘where are you heading?’ I asked casually.

‘Nowhere. Wherever I can get a lift too,’ he added.

‘I could give you one. A lift to the next town, if you wanted,’ I suggested.

He eyed me and I knew he was weighing up my crumbled suit and open gestures.

To Be Continued…

Driving

driving

Duck

It was only a light dusting of snow, but still it caused madness to fill the roads. Amy battled her way through the rush hour traffic, her foot more on the brake than the gas. At the cross road lights, she tapped her fingers against the steering wheel and watched two other cars fight for right of way ahead of her. The lights changed and she found herself stuck again.

The radio blasted up with a weather report, predicting more snowfall overnight and fog in the morning. Army blew a loose strand of blonde hair out of her green eyes and flicked her screen wipers on because, as if summoned by the crackling voice, snowflakes fluttered down. The lights changed and quickly, she moved her feet and shot around the corner before the cars opposite had even moved.

Minutes later, Amy pulled up outside her apartment block and got out of the car. The snow was still falling and sticking too. Shivering, she grabbed her bag, locked her car and headed to the door. At the porch, she paused and looked for her keys, having out of habit thrown them into her bag as she had walked over. Sighing, she grabbed them out and went to the door. A loud squeaking came from under her foot and she jumped back, almost slipping on a hidden icy patch.

Gathering herself, Amy looked down and saw something yellow poking out of the snow. Kicking at it, she relieved a rubber duck. Laughing to herself, she picked up the duck and gave it a squeeze, causing the sound she had heard to come again. Must belong to some kid or a dog, she thought. She let herself in and took the duck up to her apartment with her.

Leaving her bag, coat and shoes at the front door, Amy went to the bathroom and after left the duck on the sink. Giving it no more thought, she went about her evening and relaxed from her day at work. An hour before she normally headed to bed, she decided to have a bath as she still felt chilly. The snow was thicker outside now and it was still falling.

She prepared everything, but before she got into the bathtub, she spotted the rubber duck. Smiling she walked over, ran the duck under the cold water tap of the sink and then got into the bath with it. Settling down in the hot water, she let the duck float amongst the bubbles. There was something additionally calming about watching the bath toy float and bob a part. Happily sighing, Army shut her eyes and let herself drift.      

Someone Else’s’ Divorce

When Millie heard about the neighbours’ divorce her thoughts went straight to the children. In an odd way she had always thought herself a part of their lives, even though she had only occasion babysit them, joined in on birthdays and said hi in passing. What would become of them if they moved away? It was such a weird thought that she scolded herself for trying to pretend they were her family. It had felt like they always had been though and hadn’t she once dreamed of having children like them?

‘Did you hear me?’ her mum’s gossiping voice cut through her thoughts.

‘Yes,’ Millie said slowly and then carried on staring at nothing in particular.

Her mum mumbled and pulled the car away from the traffic lights. The roads were emptying at this time of evening and the journey was going smoothly.

‘What happened?’ she asked suddenly, ‘I knew they were going through a bad patch. You told me about that, remember? But I haven’t had a chance to speak to Lucy yet.’

‘That was months ago!’ mum laughed.

‘I’ve been busy,’ Millie said defensively, glaring at her.

Unfortunately, they both knew it was a lie. Millie sighed and slide down the passenger seat. Her view changed so that now she could only see the edges of the road and lot more of the dusky sky. She crossed her arms and refused to get into another argument. Feeling her mum glancing at her, she turned back, still desperate to know the other details.

‘Apparently, Lucy’s had enough of Andy’s aggressive temper,’ mum picked up.

‘Understandable, he’s always been brash towards me. I thought it was a front or something though. A part of his personality?’

Mum scoffed, ‘No.’

Millie turned away again and tried to act disinterested. However, she knew that now the ball was rolling her mother wasn’t going to shut up about it. She bit her lip then let her chestnut coloured hair out of its pony tail and spilling over her shoulders. Checking the dashboard clock, she saw there was twenty minutes still to go. Why for once couldn’t time go faster? She thought.

‘Lucy said it started around the time you asked about driving lessons and he refused. Since then it’s just fallen apart. He’s still out of work and seems to be having a middle-life crisis. Problem is he’s decided to drag her and the kids down too. She just can’t cope.’

‘Has he been violent?’ Millie kicked in.

Her mum shot her a disgusted look, ‘Of course not. Do you really think he’d risk that? Though he does seem very capable…’

‘I should go over…see if she wants any help with Jenny and Billy.’

‘I asked her to come to you, Mill. I said we wouldn’t mind…just I didn’t want to get mixed up in anything. Nobody should get involved in someone else’s divorce. Are you okay?’

Wiping a tear from her eye, Millie nodded.